During pregame warmups Thursday night in Boston, referee Mark Lindsay hurt his back. He couldn’t go for the game, leaving two officials — Tony Brothers and Gediminas Petraitis — for a nationally televised showdown between the Celtics and Rockets.
All night long both teams were frustrated with the officiating — Boston coach Brad Stevens picked up a rare technical arguing a call — but James Harden was called for two offensive fouls against Marcus Smart in the final 7.3 seconds, which helped the Celtics secure a come-from-behind 99-98 win.[nbcsports_video, src=https://www.youtube.com/embed/OCh6-eSRJwA width=651 height=366]
After the game, Harden vented about there only being two officials.
In the first half, Harden had 17 points on 10 shots and got basically what he wanted where he wanted it on the floor. In the second half, Boston stopped switching picks-and-rolls on Harden, got more physical with him (especially Smart), denied the ball, and while Harden had 17 points again in the half he was 3-of-17 shooting getting there. It worked. And in a game with two officials and less stuff being seen, Boston adapted to the situation and Harden did not.
Harden has a point about two officials in an NBA game, but that wasn’t the issue in the final seconds.
On those two final offensive foul calls, referee Tony Brothers is right there, less than 10 feet away — those calls had nothing to do with there only being two officials on the court. Those were calls Brothers had a clean look at and called against Harden. Smart was physical, he was denying the ball and grabbing some jersey, but Harden extended his arm in both cases, and that is going to get the foul called almost every time. Without Chris Paul the Rockets didn’t have another option to get the ball to for the final seconds, Boston knew it and played it well.
Remember, if your team blows a 26-point lead in the third quarter, the loss isn’t on the officiating.